Lu Xun (1881–1936) is widely considered the greatest writer of twentieth-century China. Although primarily known for his two slim volumes of short fiction, he was a prolific and inventive essayist. Jottings under Lamplight showcases Lu Xun’s versatility as a master of prose forms and his brilliance as a cultural critic with translations of sixty-two of his essays, twenty of which are translated here for the first time.
While a medical student in Tokyo, Lu Xun viewed a photographic slide that purportedly inspired his literary calling: it showed the decapitation of a Chinese man by a Japanese soldier, as Chinese bystanders watched apathetically. He felt that what his countrymen needed was a cure not for their physical ailments but for their souls. Autobiographical accounts describing this and other formative life experiences are included in Jottings, along with a wide variety of cultural commentaries, from letters, speeches, and memorials to parodies and treatises.
Lu Xun was remarkably well versed in Chinese tradition and playfully manipulated its ancient forms. But he also turned away from historical convention, experimenting with new literary techniques and excoriating the “slave mentality” of a population paralyzed by Confucian hierarchies. Tinged at times with notes of despair, yet also with pathos, humor, and an unparalleled caustic wit, Lu Xun’s essays chronicle the tumultuous transformations of his own life and times, providing penetrating insights into Chinese culture and society.
Offers readers insight into one of the most prolific and tormented minds of twentieth-century Chinese letters. The essays in Jottings reveal Lu Xun’s responses to the political and cultural issues of the day, and are a record as well as an analysis of China’s modern dilemma: a country enmeshed in its abiding Confucian traditions of autocracy and hierarchy while aspiring to be an equal to the great world civilization…It is timely to encounter these works today, for although the People’s Republic is anything but voiceless under Xi Jinping, it has paradoxically become silent.
Jottings under Lamplight is a long-awaited, well-curated selection of some of Lu Xun’s best essays. It lays bare his ambivalence and uncertainty, rather than glossing over them…Lu Xun was a master of high snark…In this collection [his] vicious little gems shine…Lu Xun remains largely unknown among English-language readers, but hopefully increasing access to his works will generate more interest in one of the 20th century’s most influential figures.
Jottings under Lamplight makes an invaluable contribution to the study of modern China and modern world literature. This collection brings some of Lu Xun’s best-known essays together with occasional writings that capture his brilliance as a scholar and his biting wit as an observer of culture and politics.
[The editors] have done a masterful job of selecting and organizing these essays…It is now a century after Lu Xun’s earlier work. His appeal remains today, certainly to all who care about modern Chinese literature. One might ask how he is faring with his own people now: his themes are still relevant to them. As in his own time, the authorities of today surely resist his influence. This outstanding collection provides clear evidence that Lu Xun will remain a powerful voice to successive generations in China and around the world.
Editors Cheng and Denton have assembled an often searing and sometimes startling collection of essays by renowned early 20th-century Chinese author Lu Xun…Animating every essay is Lu Xun’s deeply felt humanity. He relentlessly points out cruelty, be it a circus company half-starving a bear on gruel or the murder of dissident writers. While some essays are slight, the totality adds up to a portrait of a country struggling with uncertainty and transition, a picture just as relevant to the West today as to early-20th-century China.
Cheng and Denton make [an] important addition to the literature by showing English readers Lu Xun’s brilliance as an essayist. The book comprises 62 of Lu Xun’s essays, translated into English by some of the best scholars in the field.
- 344 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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